Most middle class Americans have grown up with chocolate and chocolate candy being a companion of sorts throughout their childhood and then into their adult years. For most of them, chocolate has always been a food that has always been perceived as a flavorful treat with pleasant connotations.
This interview was with a university-educated, retired interior designer and author. A Caucasian American female who grew up in a middle class suburb of New York City in the late 1950s and 1960s. To say that she is a “Baby Boomer” is an understatement. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy Assassination, the Beatles Invasion, Woodstock and the Vietnam War were the backdrop of her youth. Back then, candy was quite inexpensive and heavily advertised in print and media. Sugar and chocolate were very cheap compared to today. Food costs made up a much smaller percentage of Americans’ household budgets than today. Children had many favorites in brands, styles and flavors. Here are the reminiscences and recollections of one such chocolate aficionado as she was then and as she is now.
Chocolate candy in the 1950s and ’60s was not just candy, it was something much bigger . It was part of everyone’s life. From marketing advertisements, something everyone liked, would consume and enjoyed socially to economic supply a demand bringing all kinds of chocolate to the consumer. America was just hooked on chocolate.
What are your earliest recollections of chocolate and chocolate candies and snacks?
“My first memory and the beginning of my love affair with chocolate began at the age of 4. My earliest memory of chocolate is very clear. I was sitting on the front steps of my suburban family home eating a square of Hershey’s Chocolate. Soft, creamy, sweet and delicious. It gave me that warm fuzzy feeling of well being. I was hooked. Because I had trouble eating lolly pops (I would make them come off the stick) and more than once caused a choking hazard for myself. My mother thought it was much safer for me to have chocolate candy.”
Did you have a favorite chocolate candy?
“One of my favorite chocolate candies came in a small brown bag. The small bag filled with an array of colors. The name was easy to remember M & Ms. The best part of these candies were that they didn’t melt in your hands just in your mouth – like it was advertised. The chocolate is smooth and creamy covered by that hard candy shell. Colors were limited to brown, yellow, green, orange and red, with red being my favorite, even though color didn’t affect taste, I believed it did and each kid in the neighbor hood had their own favorite.”
What do you remember about going to stores to buy chocolate?
“Trips to our small grocery store brought further delights when I was introduced to Chocolate Snaps. These were small chocolate cookie wafers. The box was not put in the bag and I was allowed to carry the box home. Even though the store was a block away, it seemed like an eternity before we would get home and I could open the box. My mother also bought extra large Hershey bars and chocolate pudding (a big favorite of my dad.) Both my parents had a sweet tooth especially for anything chocolate.”
Was chocolate available in school?
“My first day of the 1st grade brought me to the school lunchroom . To my surprise I could get an ice cream sandwich – covered with that soft chocolate cookie, a chocolate dipped ice cream pop or a Dixie cup with chocolate ice cream. Ten cents would buy any of these treats. Wow, school wasn’t so bad after all. Some schools sold chocolate candy for fund raisers and we would have an extra supply of chocolate indulgence in our house.”
What do you remember about television commercials for chocolate?
“With more families having TV in their households in the 1950s, children started to watch more TV. Advertisements for candy, especially chocolate, bombarded the air waves. Advertisements for Hershey’s , Nestles, Chunky (a chunk of chocolate) Mounds, Almond Joy were among the most popular. The advertisements were cartoon like and had catchy jingles. They are still engraved in the minds of baby boomers anxious to find that retro chocolate candy and wrapper. Nestles had a really catchy tune. Sung by two puppets. Nestles (is spelled out) nestles makes the very best. The last word Chocolate coming from a basset hound puppet named Farfel. They were definitely aimed at children.”
Was chocolate syrup popular?
“There were Nutrition ads for chocolate which fortified and amplified milk. Advertised to contain lots of vitamins and minerals were commercials run on every children’s programs. Bosco, Coco Marsh, Ovaltine, Nestles’ Quik and the brown metal can of Hershey syrup were the most popular. Hot chocolate drinks were for cold weather. Nothing like a hot chocolate Ovaltine or Quik after walking home from school on a cold snowy day.”
“I was not a milk drinker so my mother served us Bosco twice a day until I was almost a teenager. Bosco came in a large glass jar with a pump so the chocolate syrup would easily go into your glass of milk. Give it a stir and it turned into chocolate milk.”
“The cost of a chocolate candy bar during the 1950s & 60s was very affordable for most families. Going to the store with five or ten cents would allow you to get a few chocolate bars. One to eat on the way home & another for later. If you had a quarter, it would bring you a weeks supply of chocolate goodies. No one ever had a dollar! We saved our pennies for chocolate.”
“Chocolate was everywhere. There was even chocolate laxative medicine like chocolate X-Lax, which is still on the market today. It was heavily advertised on television in Prime Time. My husband remembers that the factory in Brooklyn where it was made was painted entirely brown.”
“Chocolate cigarettes for children were very popular. Many adults still smoked back then. You could pretend you were an adult with your own “cigarettes” and after the pretend was over the chocolate was nice and melted, ready to eat. Can you imagine the uproar that would happened if such things were sold to children today? No wonder so many of my generation took up smoking. Chocolate cigarettes were enough for me.”
When did you first learn anything about cooking with chocolate?
“My very first home economics class in high school taught us to properly make hot cocoa from scratch using warm milk, cocoa and sugar. It was fun!”
“As a child going to a movie was a big treat either with my parents or friends. We were given money to get some kind of a treat at the movies. After seeing all the pre- movie black & white ads for chocolate on the large screen, we were all running to get our favorite chocolate candy before the movie started. Some of my friends liked Malted milk balls (chocolate covered malt flavor filling). Others like chocolate covered raisins called goobers. Also, a favorite was Milk Duds. They were packed in small boxes, perfect for a chocolate fix.”
“There was always a place to get your chocolate candy.”
How accessible was it to buy chocolate?
“Candy stores were on every busy street corner and shopping center. Trying to outsell their competition with stocking every chocolate candy made. Rows and rows of all kinds of chocolate candy all in their crisp colorful wrappers were stocked neatly. Displayed right there at the counter. It seem to say – buy now! A kids temptation! It was hard to choose. As you entered these stores, the smell of sweet sensations filled the air. Going to the candy store with my father was a regular trip on Sunday. My father would buy the Sunday newspapers and let me pick a candy bar, There were lots of candy displayed in the store, but my choice was always some kind of chocolate. Nothing else could compare.”
How about chocolate in cakes and cookies?
“Besides the candy stores neighborhood bakeries were close by -another wonderful source for chocolate. It was a visit made by my parents very often. Again the smell of sweet sensations lingered in the air. The show cases filled with all kinds of goodies beautifully displayed. There were butter cookies dipped in chocolate, huge chocolate layer cakes, black and white cookies – half chocolate iced and half vanilla, chocolate eclairs, chocolate cream pie. All mouth watering. If we were well behaved and smiled at the lady behind the counter, she would give us each a free butter cookie, dipped in chocolate, to eat on the way home. I remember being extremely disappointed when the bakery was very busy and I didn’t get my chocolate dipped cookie.”
“My favorite birthday parties were ones that served large chocolate bakery cupcakes and I remember bringing half home along with a plastic basket containing a variety of chocolate candy.”
“Even 5 & 10 cent variety stores like Woolworth’s & McCrory’s had wonderful fancy candy counters. The cases had very large chunks of chocolate, chocolate babies, Nonpareils (small chocolate candy with sugar beads on top) all ready to be scooped with a small shovel into small paper bags. My mother could not pass this counter without buying chocolate babies. I liked the Nonpareils much better.”
How about chocolate ice cream?
“There were the Familiar bells of the ice cream truck that came down your street everyday on warm summer days. We listened for the approaching bells all day.”
“Children from every home, heedless of traffic, would run out to buy their ice cream. My parents would give us money & we would run down the street & stand on the long line. Good humor displayed a chocolate dipped bar on their truck. For years I wasn’t interested in anything inside the frosty truck except that chocolate dipped bar. Mr. Softee and Bungalow Bar were other trucks that offered delicious chocolate ice cream. Mr. Softee served the best chocolate dipped soft ice cream cone. I still long for one today. Small Carvel stores were also in the neighborhood and I can almost taste the large soft (best chocolate ever) ice cream cone that dripped all over my small hands.”
Was chocolate important during holidays?
“Many of my memories of chocolate come from the Holidays. Halloween when we collected large bags of candy. Hoping to get the most popular chocolate candy and being extremely disappointed when we got an apple or something that wasn’t sweet. After dragging our bags home, we separated all the chocolate candy, trading for our favorites and then eating much too much of a good thing.”
“Our Easter baskets were filled with chocolate bunnies – solid or hollow – who cared- they were chocolate brought by the Easter Bunny. I remember I got a large chocolate egg which was beautifully decorated. It had a hole that I could look into and see a bunny. It was so pretty I really didn’t want to eat it. I held out for a few days and then gave in. Cracked it into several pieces. The milk chocolate was creamy and velvety.”
“Valentine’s Day brought small milk chocolate hearts on a stick. My father would always bring my mother a heart filled with chocolate & my father brought us mini hearts filled with about six chocolates. Always special.”
“Halloween was shopping bags full of candy collected from every home we could walk to in our scary costumes.”
“There was always a large Whitman sampler on the coffee table during Christmas. It was a kids paradise. All of these small chocolate candies filled with all sorts of treats. We would never read the box to find out what was in them instead biting off a small piece to test what was in them and if we would decide to eat the full candy or just pretend we didn’t know what happened to the corner of the candy when asked.”
Did chocolate play a social role in your youth?
“As I got older, I looked forward to going to the candy store after school. I would meet my two girlfriends who attended different schools. We indulged in Devil Dogs (Devil Cremes), Hostess brand filled chocolate cup cakes and Ring Dings (Ding Dongs). All delicious chocolate cakes filled with sweet vanilla cream. We drank chocolate egg creams, malteds, milk shakes and chocolate ice cream sodas while we giggled a lot and talked about boys.”
How about cooking with chocolate at home?
“As we moved into the 60s, chocolate grew & became more sophisticated. My mother made her first chocolate souffle, which fell immediately after leaving the oven. No worry, we ate it anyway. We enjoyed chocolate fondue where we dunked strawberries & bananas. Chocolate parfaits were fun to make and it was great to open the fridge and see all these glasses lined up with a mouth watering dessert.”
“Chocolate was used to enforce behavior. I have seen chocolate turn tears into smiles. It was given by parents as a snack, treat or to just keep kids occupied. It was given or sent as gifts. Given to your loved ones. A box of chocolate can smooth over differences & boost spirits when you weren’t feeling well. It always accompanied a bunch of flowers. It was acceptable for any celebration – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings (as my own) and a new baby. My husband gave out chocolate cigars when our son was born.”
How did your tastes for chocolate change over the years?
“As the years passes and the focus became more on health, especially for the baby boomers – many suffering from obesity and diabetes. I tried to cut my consumption of chocolate. I don’t think a chocolate lover could ever eliminate chocolate from their diet.”
What kinds of chocolate do you eat today?
“Chocolate also grew through the years. A new approach to indulge with new options such as a high percentage of cocoa & lower sugar. Chocolate from Europe, the Rain Forest & Africa are all on the market. The healthier dark chocolate is now my new favorite. I have come to love 85% to 90% dark chocolate from Germany and Africa. A small square a day as my after dinner dessert. Dark chocolate covered fruit covering blueberries or strawberries are also a favorite.”
“I substitute lunch for a high protein drink. Of course it’s chocolate flavor with very little sugar. It is frothy, chocolaty and delicious. It reminds me of that great chocolate shake I had during my childhood.”
“Although I try to take a more healthier approach, it is impossible for me to pass up the occasional chocolate molten cake, a snicker bar, any kind of chocolate ice cream, chocolate soda or just plain chocolate!”
“My life long love affair with chocolate is a bond never broken. I suspect and hope my last meal on this earth will contain my beloved chocolate.”